This chapter examines how poststructuralist discourse theory can offer new insights into the critical assessment of the transformation, stabilization and reproduction of the practices of governance networks. It begins by setting out the guiding assumptions of the approach of political discourse theory, before exploring their implications for the study of governance networks. In so doing, it foregrounds the political construction of governance networks, and their constitution through acts of power and the drawing of antagonisms. By radicalizing the insights of the Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci, and by drawing on the work of Laclau and Mouffe, the chapter argues that change and inertia in governance networks will thus be the outcome of hegemonic struggles. It investigates the political logics of such hegemonic struggles before analyzing how fantasmatic narratives explain the “grip” of particular governance practices. In conclusion, the chapter sets out the critical and normative implications of political discourse theory, cautioning against hard and fast characterizations of the forms of network governance, which themselves are based on stark binary oppositions. Poststructuralism, it concludes, recenters attention on the everyday “messy” politics of governance networks.
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